Advent has begun! As the Christian Church celebrates its “New Year,” it’s fun to look at C.S. Lewis’ essay, “Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter from Herodotus.” He describes the predicament of secularized western civilization. Reversing the spelling of “Britain,” Lewis points out how a new holiday has displaced a profound holy-day.
In the middle of winter when fogs and rains most abound, [the Niatirbians] have a great festival called Exmas, and for 50 days they prepare for it (in the manner which is called,) in their barbarian speech, the Exmas Rush.
When the day of the festival comes, most of the citizens, being exhausted from the (frenzies of the) Rush, lie in bed till noon. But in the evening they eat five times as much as on other days, and crowning themselves with crowns of paper, they become intoxicated. And on the day after Exmas, they are very grave, being internally disordered by the supper and the drinking and the reckoning of how much they have spent on gifts and on the wine.
A few among the Niatirbians have also a festival, separate and to themselves, called Crissmas, which is on the same day as Exmas. And those who keep Crissmas, doing the opposite to the majority of Niatirbians, rise early on that day with shining faces and go before sunrise to certain temples where they partake of a sacred feast.
But as for what Hecataeus says, that Exmas and Crissmas are the same, this is not credible. It is not likely that men, even being barbarians, should suffer so many and so great things (as those involved in the Exmas Rush), in honor of a god they do not believe in.
Niatirb might just as well be the Setats Detinu. We see the same signs all around us. One shocking fact is how the secular seasonal movies now do not even feel compelled to offer the slightest nod to the true meaning of the season. Santa, for many, has utterly eclipsed the Babe in the manger. And “Christ” has literally been crossed out of Xmas.
May this entertaining portrait remind each of us of the true significance of the approaching season. And, may God also use the season of Advent to prepare our individual hearts to receive the most priceless and precious Christmas gift ever given.